Student Spotlight: Kenny Ridwan ’21

In the fifth grade, cast as Belle’s father in his elementary school’s production of Beauty and the Beast, Kenny Ridwan ’21 first became smitten by the stage. Within two years of that performance, he had found an agent to represent him and moved with his family from the Seattle area to Los Angeles to pursue acting professionally.

Kenny Ridwan ’21

Denver Blevins ’21

“That process of learning my lines and then performing them on stage made me fall in love with acting,” he recalls.

Ridwan’s first gigs were commercials — he has appeared in ads for Nintendo, AT&T and Exxon — but he soon made his way into sitcoms. His biggest role to date has been on The Goldbergs, an ABC show set in the 1980s that follows the daily lives of the title family through the eyes of its young son (the show also features George Segal ’55). Ridwan has played the main character’s best friend, David Kim, since 2014 — he’s appeared in more than 40 episodes — and considers it his favorite role to date because of the extent to which he’s been able to develop it.

“With more episodes, your character gets more fleshed out and you’re able to add more of the backstory,” says Ridwan, who also had a recurring supporting role as an amateur musician on Nickelodeon’s The Thundermans, a sitcom about a family of superheroes attempting to lead normal lives in a fictional town.

The third of five children and the only member of his family in show business, Ridwan has put auditioning on hold as he adjusts to life at the College; however, he travels to L.A. once every three or four weeks to film new episodes of The Goldbergs. He plans to use his time at Columbia to explore other interests — he’s pondering a major in political science — but sees himself eventually returning to L.A. to continue his career in the entertainment industry.

Ridwan, who also has appeared on The McCarthys, Modern Family, Bones, House of Lies and other shows, is open to directing or producing but would ideally prefer to remain in front of the cameras. “There’s something really special about making someone laugh or inducing any kind of emotion in anybody,” he says. “That’s what’s kept me acting.”